Vulpes lagopusThe polar fox is a perfectly adapted predator, which developed a whole host of anatomical and behavioral traits to survive harsh weather conditions of circumpolar areas in which it occurs.
1.It lives in the northern hemisphere, especially in the Arctic tundra biome.
It can be found from Alaska through the northern part of North America, in Greenland and Iceland, in the northern part of Scandinavia, and throughout north Eurasia.
2.It is the only land mammal found in Iceland.
It arrived in the area at the end of the last ice age, migrating over the frozen sea.
3.There are five subspecies of the polar fox.
4.The Pliocene Tibetan fox (Vulpes qiuzhudingi) is considered the ancestor of this species.
The Tibetan highlands experienced Pliocene (5 to 3,6 million years ago) climate conditions similar to those of the tundra and harbored cold-adapted mammals that spread across North America and Eurasia during the Pleistocene era (2,6 million – 11,7 thousand years ago).
5.Arctic foxes are adapted to harsh and hostile weather conditions.
The difference between their body temperature and the ambient temperature can reach 212 Fahrenheit, so every joule of energy is at a premium. However, polar foxes have developed a host of behaviors that, combined with their other anatomical features, help them survive in the worst weather conditions.
6.There are two color variants of polar foxes – white and blue.
The white variant is white during winter, but it is brown on the back and light grey on the belly during summer. The blue variant is mostly grey, steel blue, or brown for the whole year. Although the blue allele is dominant over the white allele, 99% of the polar fox population is born with the white variant. Among those two variants, five varieties of coloring can be distinguished – blue, white, beige, sapphire, and shadowy.
7.Males are slightly bigger than females.
The length of the snout and body of males reaches an average of 55 centimeters, and 52 with females. Males weigh about 3,5 kilograms, and females 2,9 kilograms. The record-holder among polar foxes weighed about 9,4 kilograms.
8.Although being omnivorous, they feed mainly on small animals.
Their menu consists of lemmings, voles, and other rodents, as well as fish, birds, hares, and eggs. In May and April, polar foxes hunt for baby seals, which are vulnerable at this time. Occasionally, polar fox's diet consists of algae or berries.
9.Although not as good as the red fox or dog, their hearing is good.
They can hear in the 125 – 16,000 Hz range. They can hear lemmings digging at a depth of 10 – 15 centimeters.
10.Their sense of smell is exceptional.
They can smell carrion left by polar bears at a distance of 10 to 40 kilometers. They easily sense and find frozen lemmings under the layer of snow up to 77 centimeters thick and smell a seal’s liar under the 150 centimeter of snow.